The obvious question is, "Where to begin?" The election? The deaths of some of the world's most renowned artists? Deaths within my own family?

Who can say? Truly.

A few weeks ago, John Oliver bid the year adieu with a well-deserved middle finger; however, one can’t help but wonder where to begin from here. In a foggy December cemetery, I imagine a shovel slamming the soil of 2016’s grave with satisfaction, and yet there’s still an empty home to be returned to. A thirst unslaked. Walls without life.

The conversation, culturally, has quickly shifted to that of rebellion. I’m reminded of the uprise in 2008, which led to the United States electing our first African-American president. Long-running oppression felt as if it might finally be killed off, or at least a little at a time. Now it feels as if we’re a nation with the spigot twisted shut. People confront fear and shrink; being scared seems to be a means of suffocation. Go ahead and wonder about a sort of punk revival, but keep perspective — don’t lose focus due to selfish ambitions.

Meanwhile, songs like “Suffragette City” ring as loss rather than celebration. Who ever asked for “Hallelujah” to resound more mournfully? Between shows, bandmates and I watch best-of Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles clips on YouTube. Collectively, we don’t feel much better.

My aim in naming my favorite albums of the year cannot be considered a mention of optimism. Truthfully, I’m not the right pick. Just as some will think my list of records is altogether “not the right pick.” No, these things I recognize. Still, Nick Cave whispers to “step away and let the world turn.” The flaccid body of a rigid man finds forgiveness in what is broken. “Peeling the skin away reveals the heart” echoes over and over and over. I’m reminded that sometimes it’s the loudest clash that offers the most harmony. Grow, be free.

BEST OF 2016
Daughter - Not to Disappear
Helms Alee - Stillicide
Neurosis - Fires Within Fires
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
SUMAC - What One Becomes
Wovenhand - Star Treatment

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Drose - “Boy Man Machine”
Head Wound City - A New Wave of Violence
Jaye Jayle - House Cricks and Other Excuses to Get Out
Preoccupations - Preoccupations
Savages - Adore Life
Weekend Nachos - Apology